BENGALURU: What are your strongest travel memories made of? For Arnav Seth and Aaron Barboza, it’s food from the different lands they visit. The two friends have come up with a project called Koi, where they bring a blend of their two favourite things – food and travel. Every month has a new theme, inspired from a different country, and a ready-to-cook meal that is intrinsic to it. The duo has already covered countries like South Korea, Thailand, Greece and Vietnam. For this month, they’ve chosen Spain, while for December, they making an assorted snack box that will contain dishes from South Korea, Thailand, France and Japan.
Currently available only in Mumbai and Bengaluru, each meal has three courses – an appetiser, a main and a dessert or condiment. In a bid to recreate the perfect taste, they procure authentic spices or vegetables grown in similar weather conditions. “The mushrooms used in paella taste different because they are grown in the Mediterranean belt. We got in touch with vendors in Mumbai and Bengaluru who supply to gourmet restaurants. They grow their vegetables in a specific temperature,” says Seth. For meat and seafood, they just go with the required cuts.
The culinary journey started with Seth replicating food items from his travels. “Being unable to step out turned everyone into a home chef. Before the lockdown, I had extensively travelled to Southeast Asian countries and tried replicating their noodles and soup. When I told Aaron what I was up to, he also shared his inputs,” says Seth, who works in strategy for an edtech company and started this venture in July. After the initial response from friends and family turned out to be positive, the two launched the project officially.
Seth and Barboza, both 24-years-old and Mumbai-based, know each other from their days in junior college, many of which were spent bonding over food. “We watch many travel shows, especially by Anthony Bourdain. He used to make his audience travel through food. And that’s what we want to do at Koi,” says Barboza, who is works as a management consultant.
Agrees Seth, adding that people are ignorant about how a certain food is the most popular dish of that country. “When people travel to Thailand, they mostly order Pad Thai, without knowing what makes it special,” he explains. While the two personally look after the Mumbai branch, the Bengaluru one is managed full time by a friend, Nyla Saldanha. The venture is named after Koi fish, which signifies prosperity in Japan.
Travel and food may sound like a winning combination but Seth and Barboza are also aware of the project’s constraints. “People are more inclined towards Southeast Asian cuisines because of the familiar flavours. For something like paella, the response would come down,” says Seth. To counter this, they have added custard-based desserts to the menu. The kits are priced at `800 for one person and `1450 for
two. Visit cookwithkoi.com for details.